Law school in line for $7 million windfall

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Florida A&M University’s planned Orlando law school will open on time thanks to a nearly $7 million windfall for Central Florida tucked into the state budget, now awaiting a Friday night vote in the Legislature.

Following intense lobbying by FAMU officials, the law school is now on track to open as scheduled by August 2002.

"Of course, [House] Speaker [Tom] Feeney is from Orlando, and so he made sure Orlando got its school," said James Davis, an assistant to FAMU President Frederick Humphries.

There was plenty more good news for Central Florida including money for blind mosquito eradication in Seminole County to funding for a Toni Jennings educational center at the University of Central Florida.

UCF emerged as a big winner this session, receiving more than $30 million for new buildings, a new hospitality school and other programs. The school is slated to receive $8.5 million for a new business school building, $5.7 million for a new teaching center and more than $3 million to remodel and add to existing buildings.

The Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Center will receive $750,000, helping to establish the first program in the state designed to specifically train teachers to work with exceptional education students, said Dan Holzenbeck, a UCF lobbyist. An equal sum is expected to be awarded to the center annually, he said.

"This is another great year for Central Florida," said Sen. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, one of the Legislature’s biggest UCF promoters.

UCF and Valencia Community College will receive $1.25 million to begin planning a $12 million shared campus in Kissimmee.

"This is the start for people being able to stay home in Osceola and still get a four-year degree," said Rep. Frank Attkisson, R-Kissimmee.

Osceola County also gets $500,000 for a new instrument landing system at Kissimmee’s airport. The city will kick in another $500,000.

"The airport already has a control tower, and with this, pilots will be able to land in all weather conditions in Kissimmee," said Attkisson.

Osceola won millions for its projects, but one dear to Sen. Charlie Bronson’s heart did not win funding -- the $1 million request to renovate the county’s agricultural center near Kissimmee.

Orlando International Airport will receive $12 million to help build a new "people mover" linking the main building to a new terminal. To help organize transportation issues at the Orange County Convention Center, $3 million was earmarked for an intermodal center where bus, auto and rail traffic can all be linked in one of the region’s most heavily traveled areas.

Social service agencies are also poised to catch some state cash. The STEPS substance abuse program for women with children in West Orange will receive $125,000 for additional staffing to serve families in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Brevard counties.

"This is one that eternally tugs at the heart-strings of your fiscal conservatives," said Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, who pushed the funding. "For so long, we’ve ignored these problems for women as we addressed the same problems for men."

While many big projects won approval, so did some smaller projects -- none smaller than the blind mosquitoes buzzing Sanford. After years of seeking state help to fight the pests, Rep. David Simmons won $350,000 to begin eradication efforts.

In Volusia County, DeLand’s Athens Theatre will receive $50,000 for renovation. A new joint Volusia-Flagler-Daytona Beach Community College charter technical school in Holly Hill will receive $4.2 million. The school is slated to open in August..

The Legislature also reserved $500,000 for storm-water work around the Harris chain of lakes in Lake County.

Scott Powers of the Sentinel staff contributed to this story.Jon Steinman can be reached at 850-222-5564 or jsteinman@orlandosentinel.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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